Matthew Cauli, a full-time caregiver to his wife, shares their story.
Anyone who has been a caregiver knows what a difficult job it can be. Juggling so many responsibilities can take a toll mentally and physically—not to mention the emotional challenge of seeing someone you love struggling.
Matthew Cauli, 38 is a full-time caregiver and understands this firsthand. Here, he shares his story along with advice for other full-time caregivers.
How Cauli Became a Full-Time Caregiver
Cauli met his wife, Kanlaya, in New York City in 2009. In a little over a year, they decided to get married, and seven years later, they had a son.
“During the peak of COVID in early 2020, my wife suffered a massive stroke right in front of my son and me—a day I'll never forget,” says Cauli.
She was rushed to the hospital and doctors tried to unclog the mass that they thought caused the stroke—they performed a surgery where they went up an artery in her leg. Doctors were able to unclog it, but unfortunately, two days later she had another stroke on the right side of her brain. This caused paralysis on the left side of her body.
“At the time, since it was during the beginning of COVID, the doctors were very puzzled, wondering if it was related to COVID. They were unsure of why this 37-year-old, healthy young mom was having these strokes,” Cauli explains.
They finally found the cause of the strokes: a 10-centimeter mass in her abdomen area, which was caused by ovarian cancer. As a result, Kanlaya had a full hysterectomy. That’s when she started chemotherapy and rehab, at which point Cauli became her caregiver.
“I was by her side through all of this and learned as much as I could from the hospitals and rehab. She was using a wheelchair permanently, unable to move around. She was in bad shape,” says Cauli.
What His Daily Life Is Like
These days, Cauli has fallen into a routine: First, he prepares his five-year-old son for school, which involves dressing him, making him breakfast and dropping him off in the morning. When he comes back home, he gets Kanlaya out of bed, helps her get dressed, makes her breakfast and administers the medication she needs.
On the days when she's up for it, they will do some exercises on her leg and her arm. Cauli also manages Kanlaya’s personal hygiene, helping her shower and blow dry her hair.
He also calls and schedules all of her doctor's appointments and does chores such as laundry, cleaning and whatever needs to be done around the house.
“In the beginning, I was maintaining a full-time job from home. I was able to attend meetings and get work done, but I just I couldn't keep it up,” says Cauli. “Even now, I don't have much time to do personal work, but I'll try to answer emails or post on social media.”
“I didn't care about who saw it or if I got negative feedback. It just felt good expressing myself through social media. TikTok allowed me to share my story learn about other people's stories and know that I'm not alone,” Cauli explains.
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Cauli’s Advice to Other Full-Time Caregivers
Cauli admits that to this day, he's still learning and growing.
“Besides the basic advice, like taking time for yourself and having patience, I suggest trying to learn as much as you can from the professionals like the nurses or the rehab staff. Take notes and ask questions, because you will have to apply all of this back home." In short, he says, it’s very important to be prepared when you make the transfer to home and become the caregiver.
His other suggestions include:
1. Make time for physical activity. "Even if it's just taking a walk," he says.
2. Explore social media. "Either reach out to fellow groups or start your own page to share your journey," Cauli suggests. he also recommends caregivers find time for personal hobbies and interests.
3. Start a side hustle or engage in a hobby. “I've always had a little side hustle, which is selling collectibles on eBay. It’s my passion and definitely an escape for me because it is my passion,” Cauli states.
4. Make time for yourself. Figure out what high-quality "me time" means to you, Cauli says—and make sure you engage in it regularly.